Anacostia River: An activist who wouldn't take no for an answer

September 2011 News

As on so many of his trips on the Anacostia River, Robert Boone's boat is the only one visible for miles.

He putt-putts in a pontoon south from Bladensburg Waterfront Park, where the Anacostia begins its eight-mile run to the Potomac River at Hains Point.

It is dusk on a sweltering Friday. The river is wide and inviting. Its still water appears as flat and soft as a mattress.

There are no embedded shopping carts to shove out of the way, no phone booth carcasses blocking his path, no crashed Oldsmobile lying sideways in the shallows like a beached dolphin.

In the late 1980s, when Boone first began exploring the Anacostia, he could cross the river stepping on discarded car tires almost without getting his feet wet. He gave the Anacostia a terrible name that stuck: "The Forgotten River."

He spent the next two decades on a mission to revive the river - an effort so successful that by the time he retired two years ago from the nonprofit Anacostia Watershed Society he had co-founded, he had to take back his own words: "It's not forgotten anymore."

Boone learned to love the water from his father, who frequently took him boating on the Pamlico Sound when he was growing up near Burlington, N.C.

But he became an environmentalist almost by chance. First, there were stints as a soldier, a college teacher, a macrobiotic restaurateur, a global traveler and a carpenter. By the age of 47, he was living in the District and in search of a sense of purpose.



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